“Let’s begin the meeting. Hello, my name is Michael, and I’m addicted to collecting U.S. Martial Arms.”
Let me tell you how it began, what I call “The fatal moment of my life”. I was a student at Pitt in 1996 and to break the monotony of our studies a friend and I attended the big gun show in Greensburg, PA.
I was raised in a hunting family, and was no stranger to firearms, but viewed them more as tools rather than something you would want to own for its own sake. A 16 oz. Plumb claw hammer is a nice hammer, but its job is to pound nails, not just sit in a toolbox.
I also grew up as a history buff, immersed in the local Rev and Civil War battlefields. The dialog of every war movie ever shown on the three TV channels we got was perfectly memorized. At that gun show it dawned on me that if I could scratch up $450 or so, I could buy my very own M1 Garand, just like in WWII. What a crazy irresponsible idea! I mean, you can’t hunt deer with it. But I could own a rifle that was there…at Normandy or the Bulge or Iwo. Crazy and I’m going to do it!
Sitting at a corner table at the gun show was a man with salt and pepper beard and wire rim glasses. He had maybe ten Garands on the table and was mobbed with guys talking for hours with no intention of ever buying anything, somewhat of a gun show tradition. He was also selling books he had written about the M1. He was, of course, Scott A. Duff. At this point, my interest in firearms, military history, and modest financial means reached a critical mass that was detonated by Scott. Every day since, I have been living in the blast radius…
I didn’t buy a rifle that day; I bought “The Red Book”. Like any good student, I wanted to study up and needed to save up my money. Six months or so later I bought my first M1 from Scott.
During those years, a great number of Garands were coming into the country from South Korea. Quality parts were readily available and affordable, making it popular to restore rifles to “as manufactured” configuration. My first Garand is one of these, a February 1944 SA GAW. She looks just like the month she was made and shoots like gangbusters. Eventually Scott became a business mentor and personal best friend. Today I own many martial arms, from Rev War muskets to Identified Civil War carbines to Vietnam War captured bring backs. Virtually all of them are more valuable and collectable than that GAW. Nevertheless, she will always be my favorite rifle, as she started both the hobby, and especially the friendship, of a lifetime.
BY MICHAEL P. POPERNACK
You can purchase several of our M1 Garand books online: